About the Mainship 390…
I often jokingly tell the story that, “Before starting the Great Loop we thought we had purchased something special, until we started seeing Mainship 390s all over the place on the Loop!” It is certainly one of the most popular Looper cruising vessels.
Pros and Cons of the Mainship 390.
After looking at over a dozen cruising boats we purchased our 2000 Mainship 390 in June of 2020 for the following reasons:
Full walk-around capability with the security of hand rails while underway.
Molded fiberglass stairs to the fly bridge instead of a ladder.
Mostly it is a one-level living space for salon, galley, cockpit, walk-through transom, to swim platform. There are not a lot of stairs and multi-levels to move about. We added some more hand rails at strategic spots to enhance this benefit even more as my wife has MS.
There is no “bright work” or teak (or other wood) to maintain on the outside of the boat! This was by design to keep maintenance efforts and costs down to a minimum. (Occasionally, you might see teak treads on the stairs that go up to the bridge.)
On the inside, by comparison, a generous amount of full-dimension teak wood is used in the construction and cabinetry making for a warm and aesthetic living space throughout.
We specifically looked for a single-screw model with bow-thruster, which is the more common configuration. Some with twin screw Volvos are around. We like both the ease of maintenance and the economy of the single engine version, as there is more room to move around both sides of the engine. Plus we don’t have to pay for twice the maintenance. Our engine is the CAT 3126, there are also many outfitted with Yanmar and Volvos in the fleet.
There is a separate shower stall in the head, and it has a sit down seat molded in which Shelly really likes.
The standard tankage volumes for fuel, fresh water, and the holding tank are compatible with our full-time liveaboard lifestyle.
The Main Stateroom has a queen sized bed in the bow, both sides are accessible so one person can get up without disturbing the other’s sleep. We have a nice memory foam 12″ Portland mattress.
The VIP Stateroom comes in both a full bed variety and the twin bed configuration. We prefer the twin bed version in case we have a “couple of guys” over who prefer not to sleep together, though it is mostly always used for storage so it does not matter much.
We also really like (require) a fully enclosed canvas fly bridge which protects us from the cold and wind. I’m often underway with only a T-Shirt on or bare back while other boats go by all bundled up with winter coats because their fly bridge is open to the elements.
We purchased the boat with a modern day 12″ Raymarine Axiom GPS chart plotter. Major systems we have since added: AIS transmit + receive, Radar, Autopilot, 3x 200 watts of solar panels, 540 AH of LiFePO4 battery storage. There have also been a number of improvements made to the galley area.
Mainship 390 single screws are fuel efficient (our stats: 3.5 GPH = 2.0 mpg at 7.0 knots / 1700 rpm) and the acquisition cost is reasonable. They are not the most expensive cruising yachts to have to buy +/- $120,000-$160,000 typical asking price (2023). The Mainship 390 was typically shipped with an adequately sized diesel generator which can handle everything (A/C, hot water, electric range etc.) In the galley, our 3-burner stovetop is propane which we prefer over the more common electric range version. Together with our new solar panels and storage, we never need to start the generator just to cook a meal!
The CONs. Things that we don’t think are “great” with the Mainship 390 include:
Headroom in the forward half of the Main Stateroom was a disappointment. (A conjugal sea trial was not part of our purchase process! Who’d have thunk?)
Compared to other boats I’ve owned (sailboats, outboards, sterndrives) the Mainship 390’s helm is not very responsive when maneuvering (through a narrow bridge opening in current for example.) For docking, the bow thruster is essential in the single-screw configuration, though the thruster does not help very much when making way like in the narrow bridge situation. So, all that took some getting used to for me.
Technically, the Mainship has “unprotected” running gear. So, if you have a soft (or hard) grounding the propeller will probably take it on the chin. In contrast, the lobster boats that were all around me in Maine as a boy all had a skeg that extended from along the keel going under the propeller and all the way to the rudder post. In comparison, the fact that our Mainship 390 doesn’t have “protected running gear” simply means we have become more cautious, less adventurous, and we might wait for some tide to be under us before making certain passages on the ICW. “Why ding the prop if you can avoid it?”
While it is a seaworthy vessel by most accounts, there are more “stable” cruising vessels out there for open water passages on windy days. So, you have to respect the boat’s limitations when setting up your Go/NoGo Criteria. Every crew on any boat should establish their own Go/Nogo Criteria and live by it. Those types of cruising vessels that can go comfortably on the outside with 25+ knots of wind and 4+ foot waves all day long are larger, heavier, cost a lot more, and many have stabilizers too! The Mainship 390 is not in that class of cruising vessel IMO. We have sustained that for a few hours (and picked up everything on the salon floor once we were safely destinated.) Personally by comparison, I grew up on a 31 foot sailboat (with a ton of lead 5.5 feet deep); we loved those conditions so long as the main was reefed. But those conditions are a “No Go” today for us in our Mainship 390.
Neither Pro nor Con:
There is a famous swim platform defect where it is theoretically possible for the swim platform cavity can fill up with water. That has not been a show stopper or problem for us or any of the other Mainship 390 owners we know. It is an easily manageable thing using any number of solutions. Nonetheless, it is something you might learn more about when you get serious about buying a Mainship 390! Feel free to contact me for more detailed information on the history of this. I’ve had many conversations with many yacht owners of all types, including the elite high-end manufacturers; they all have “something” you want to become educated about before you buy.
We have a fully carpeted Salon floor as well at the staterooms. The teak & holly sole is more common from our unofficial surveys of many other Mainships. Carpeted is quieter. Teak & holly sole is better looking.
The Mainship 390 has a younger twin sister called a Mainship 350. Both models literally came out of the same mold. The model number change followed a trend around the year 2000 when yacht manufacturers started to consider swim platforms and bow pulpits as part of the overall length of the boat. “Upgrading the Mainship 350 to a model 390 helped in the marketing of the boat because the customer would associate the new model number as having greater value! At least that was the theory. In reality, if I am paying per foot for dockage and the dockmaster asks for things like the model number and length of our boat, we actually may need to pay more as a 390 than the younger twin sister! Anyway, that’s why you might see online references to the “Mainship 350/390” in the forums on occasion.
Bottom Line: We love our Mainship 390 and we continue to make investments with the plan to keep her for a long time.
Here is a good example of a 2001 Mainship 390 with a generous set of photos in and out. AGLCA member/owner Laura Fadok has it up for sale, and it is NEAR the Ft Meyers area! https://thetrailpost.com/mainship-390-%22wild-life%22 This boat has completed the Loop twice and is looking for a new owner to make it three!
These boats were manufactured starting in the late 1990s in St Augustine FL, and there are a few of them around that have a model year as late 2005. Those were a very successful ~10 years, and a lot of these boats were manufactured during the middle of that time. I suspect two factors led to their demise: the market started wanting faster boats aka “express cruisers”, and also the downturn in the economy in 2008-2009 didn’t help. (There were a lot of boat manufacturers who went out of business those years.) Nonetheless, today these “trawlers” like the Mainship 390 remain very popular in the used-boat market for general cruising or to do the Great Loop.
According to the AGLCA, in 2021 a full 10% of all the  boats known to have completed the Great Loop that year were Mainships, more than any other manufacturer.
The 2022 statistics just came out (Jan 2023). Of the record 227 Loopers who are known to have completed the Loop in 2022:
Most Popular Boat Makes
1. Mainship (20)
2. Sea Ray (15)
3. Ranger Tug (13)
4. Grand Banks (11)
5. Carver (10)
6. Kadey-Krogen (9)
7. (tie) DeFever (7)
(tie) Meridian (7)
(tie) Bayliner (7)
10. (tie) Marine Trader (6)
(tie) Endeavour (6)
(tie) Monk (6)